(Warning: Extensive viewing of junk wax era cards may be hazardous to your health)
I've lived in western PA for over 15 years now. I arrived well after the run of success the Pirates had in the early 90's, and the Buccos were already stuck in mediocrity. Some decent players were part of the club in the late 90's when I arrived, but the team just couldn't get over the hump.
Pitchers like John Smiley and Bob Walk were nowhere to be found.
On came the new millennium, and the Pirates found themselves in a new home, PNC Park (there was a cartoon that depicted PNC as an acronym for Pirates Need Cash back then...) and there was hope that a winning team would soon be on the way.
But players like Jose "Chico" Lind and Gary Redus were nowhere to be found.
On came the mid 00's, and the team was a wreck. After 4 more years of losing records with Lloyd McClendon at the helm, the Pirates started rotating managers and young talent on a regular basis. Names like Bay, McLouth, Bautista, and Kendall were moved as they were approaching large contracts befitting their performances.
Players like Tom Prince and Don Slaught were nowhere to be found.
For most of the first dozen years that I've lived in PA, I would watch maybe a dozen games on the TV at most. It was painful to listen to, read about, or watch the Pirates. Then finally, a glimmer of hope in 2009. The team announced that it was going to totally rebuild with youth, and part of that was calling up a 22 year old phenom...
2009 & 2010 were miserable, but the Pirates began the youth movement, bringing in kids like Walker, Jones, Alvarez and Tabata. Trades were made, bringing in young pitchers such as Morton and MacDonald. The nucleus was beginning to take shape. Clint Hurdle was hired, and there was hope for the first time in a long time in Pittsburgh.
A couple of heartbreaking years ensued, and the young Pirates were learning how to win. The kids also learned that the season is long, and you have to keep going for 162 games to achieve the kind of success that they wanted.
Last night, the city of Pittsburgh (and the surrounding area) breathed a sigh of relief. 20 years of losing had finally come to an end. I will say this for the people of Pittsburgh, they certainly were a lot more patient that someone in say Chicago, New York or Los Angeles would have been if their club had been on such a skid.
Yes, this post has had a little bit of humor, and a lot of personal opinion. But I can honestly say this.
I've never seen a city anywhere that was as happy as Pittsburgh was to see the number Eighty One last night.
No matter what happens the rest of the way for the Pirates, this season is a success as far as I'm concerned.
Thanks for reading, Robert